Treaty for the Arctic Ocean – 2007

24 Sep 2007

The Arctic needs a treaty and a precautionary international approach. Robin des Bois presented at Grenelle de l’environment an environmental round table a proposition concerning the Arctic on the 24th of September 2007.

Working group No 2: Preserving biodiversity and natural resources
Detail of proposal:
Within the European framework or with other parties the MEDAD (Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development) should initiate a project for an Arctic Ocean treaty. This binding international conventional instrument should target identifying and quantifying the flows of atmospheric, aquatic and acoustic pollutions originating from either internal Arctic Ocean sources or external sources. It should also target the assessment of related effects on the entire Arctic ecosystem, notably on marine resources and try to limit those effects. The atmospheric contribution to the warming up of the Arctic Ocean in terms of greenhouse effect gases and possibly the aquatic contributions should be examined and mitigated. Sanitary and economic consequences of the pollutions and climatic variations and their effects on Arctic States and populations from sub-arctic regions but also migrating animal species should be included in the framework of this Arctic Ocean treaty. Particular attention should be given to risks, disturbances and pollutions associated to the exploitation of fossil resources and minerals as well as shipping and other means of transport.
The Arctic Ocean treaty should be a treaty for the protection of the natural and human environment. It should deal with managing and anticipating the consequences, in the field of chronic and acute, pollutions and in the field of climate variations and their consequences. The intention of this treaty is not to intervene in the marine territorial claims or seafloor territorial claims of Arctic States.

Rational / Impact on biodiversity, natural resources and the climate:
The Arctic Ocean is the meeting point of atmospheric and marine pollutions in the Northern hemisphere, amongst which those rejected by Europe, Northern America and China. The Arctic Ocean is the regulator of fish resources in the Northern hemisphere; it guarantees the survival of protected species such as the polar bear or the blue whale. The Arctic plays a regulating role in the World’s climate. The Arctic ecosystem and its shores are home to native populations whose diet and cultures are ocean based.
The Arctic Council entered into force in 1998. It is an inter-governmental forum which groups the 8 Arctic States. Its main idea is to integrate the indigenous populations. The Arctic Council can facilitate cooperation between the 8 Arctic States, it is not binding and in its current state it is restricted to the improvement of information between the Arctic States in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development.
The Arctic Council is an extension of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) instigated in 1989 by Finland with the intention “to take a regional approach of the protection of the environment” and the “Declaration on Cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region” (BEAR) signed in 1993 by Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. “BEAR” is a regional subpart of AEPS it complements it and is not binding either.
Some International conventions include the Arctic Ocean in their scope among them The International Law of the Sea, the OSPAR Convention for the protection of the North East Atlantic and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutions, the Convention on atmospheric pollution transported over long distances which does not take into account northern forest fires and the smoke generated by these forest fires, an important contributor to Arctic haze.
The only regional convention which is binding for the Arctic States is the 1973 agreement on the Arctic Ocean acting on the protection of the polar bears. The Polar Bear Agreement demands positive actions from Arctic States which harbour polar bear populations and calls for participation from neighbouring states. It is the only international convention which specifically addresses the Arctic.

France has a substantial experience in the functioning of international treaties in this field. It played an important role in the negotiation of the founding Antarctic Treaty, and in the suspension of mineral resources exploitation in the Antarctic. France also played a major role in the securing of a whale sanctuary in the Southern Oceans. France has its share of responsibilities in Arctic pollution and it is situated geographically within the perimeter of the Arctic ecosystem degradation. France is thus also exposed to the consequences of the degradation of the Arctic ecosystem.

Required regulatory measure(s) or legislative measure(s) :

Concerned bodies to be involved in the implementation :
France, European Community, Arctic Council, Arctic States or neighbouring states (sub-artic states) and any country involved or likely to be involved in the reduction of atmospheric pollution (including greenhouse effect gases) and aquatic pollutions.

Agenda and timeline for implementation :
Preliminary discussions could start as early as the beginning of 2008.

Implementation indicator and monitoring of the results :
Monitoring the negotiating progress, the signing and the ratifying by concerned states.

Problems, constraints and limitations arising from this proposal :
Arctic States are extremely cautious with regards to any measures concerning the Arctic Ocean. Robin des Bois experienced this very conservative approach as early as 1995 when it presented a plan for a whale sanctuary in the Arctic at the 1995 International Whaling Conference in Dublin.

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